What’s happening here? I know it might be hard to tell. That would be the notoriously mom-surfing chick, the yellow one, sitting on her mom. Not only that, mom is perching on the swing. With other chickens. The swing is swingy. I rarely see them use it at all.Obviously, she is far too large for mom-sitting at the best of times, but like one of those huge dogs that still thinks it’s a lap sized puppy, she doesn’t realize she’s outgrown it. And while perching on a swing might not be the best of times. Mom put up with it for awhile, too, but dumped her off when she’d had enough. Next, it will be chicken pyramids.
Almost bedtime. The mama hens got a box today, so that I can move them around soon. They got very excited. Did you know your mom was hatched in a box? They like boxes.
The chicks are all alive, even the little half size yellow chick, but there’s been no late hatchings. That’s a pretty poor hatch rate – 12 live chicks out of 23 eggs under two hens. The 13th was unlucky. But that is a dozen bright new little lives, which is wonderful. Maybe not all the eggs were fertile, or the late frosts we got made it too cold for them.
I’m coming in there
The other chicks are still in the chickery. Usually they start to break out, which lets me know it’s time for them to be at large, but so far, they are all staying inside, although they could fly right out.The little black “runt” of this clutch is catching up with the others.
And the oldest chicks, well: They decided to dust bathe at the bottom of the ramp, in the smallest dust bowl ever.
These two blip in and out of Silkieland at will, as do some of the other Silkies, since they can slip under the fence if they want.
For these chicks, the coop is the safe house, so they sprint up the ramp if there’s any strange noises or shadows or surprises. It’s funny.
Butterfly party by the GH door. There’s a bit of mud there, and it drew a butterfly crowd (why?) Mama hen and her chick duo slip in and out of Silkieland, but stick close by to it. They seem comfortable over there, rather than the far side of the greenhouse. All the chickens could come and go from Silkieland, it’s not a secure facility, but most stay. They’re a little too crowded for my taste but they show every sign of contentment, so – good enough for now. When I make the next one the space will be doubled.The little chicks are very precocious, handling the ramp from day 1, making their own decisions. They aren’t very needy, or whiny. They still stand on Mom once in a while.They all got caught out in the rain, though. “Caught” – being out in the rain was optional. Mom looks like a wet schnauzer, and the chicks look dipped, but they are unperturbed.The other hens all jog off when the rain starts, and hide under a tent. The last guinea spends all his time with the hens now that he’s alone. I’m disappointed to mysteriously lose those guineas. I had a nice, peaceful flock, and they roosted in the greenhouse every night. wth? Now have to start over. I’m thinking of getting keets and hoping this guy can bring them up. The males are active parents when the pair is intact; can they do it alone?
We got the pigs! Three little piglets. They are very pink, but they are supposed to be sired by a full black Berkshire. It seems they take after their mother.
We’ve finally sorted out our pig transport, after trying dog crates and the back of the car. That extra chickery I made came in, secured with a pallet, and covered with a piece of canvas (becoming as useful and ubiquitous around here as baling twine and wire), so the piglets don’t get a sunburn or heatstroke.
Our first piglets came in with sunburn and possibly heatstroke, but recovered. Although, after wrestling with them, sometimes you wish they had heatstroke.
We carried them from truck to pigland over the shoulder. “Easy”. HW gave me the small pig, and she was a crazy squealer, who screamed the whole trip, and absolutely pummeled my lower back stomping with her sharp little hooves. Wow. That hurt a lot.
HW had it worse though. He got peed on. Both of our pigs pooped en route, and then HW says “Oh no! Warm and wet – I think I’m getting peed on!” So I was better off with the stomping pig.
Then HW moved the third pig and immediately had them all run right through the fence, making us completely 0 for 4 on piglet retention. This time, the pigs were small enough to fit through the bottom squares of the electric fence, and they did. He got them back in though, and they fell to rooting like they were born to do it.
In the middle of the night, discussing the piglets pouring through the fence, I said “You know, the right thing to do is to take the other electric fence, with the smaller holes on the bottom, and wrap that around outside the fence already there, and do it tonight while they’re asleep. ” And he started getting out of bed! So we did that together at midnight, and the pigs are thoroughly trapped.
They weren’t asleep, but they were moving slow, watching us from the shadows. And they are SO happy! Face deep in the dirt, day one.
This morning, four new chicks!
All of them a bit damp, brown and black with black legs, and bright white egg teeth on their black beaks- SO cute. There are two from Cleopatra (copper maran Xs), and two from Cheeks or Puffcheeks (Ameracauna Xs). Proud mama!
The two “old” chicks have integrated into gen. pop. They integrated themselves, as they do.
Just before running out for pigs and doing a henyard check, I found one chick outside of the chickery. After fruitlessly chasing her around the box a few times, I tipped it up so she could slip back under a corner. She was looking. It almost worked. Then the other chick darted out, and then it was on. Those two started to run away from home together, mama flipped out, so I just let her out.
She was set upon by the roosters, and ran into the flock of hens, and the babies crouched in the grass (it only takes a couple of blades for them to disappear), but after the dust settled, they flew (flew like sparrows!) back to her, and that was that. Now they are part of the flock. They slept in the box last night, but this morning Mom was coaching them on how to use the coop ramp (although they were having none of it).
Moment of truth! The grand opening.I dropped the ramp and the birds on the threshold stared, taken aback. Oh, there’s the Colonel pushing his way through. Coming through, coming through. I’ll show you how it’s done.
And he did.
Then the birds started pouring right out.
The rapidity may have had something to do with the angle of descent. I wasn’t sure about the steepness of the ramp, if they could handle it, but it turns out, they handle it. They accelerate! – they’re running by the bottom third, but they can hop and fly the runout, so they all did just fine.What’s happening inside? Ah, there are a few that can’t figure out the corners. Where’d everyone go? Predictable.
So, everyone out with no drama, and…..! Ahhhhh, a big sigh of relief, as the sound of silence and peace settles over birdland. No one outcompeted or offended by the big birds. No rooster sneak attacks. It’s even better than I expected! If I could have done this any sooner, I would have. Everyone has all they can eat and plenty of time to do it, and they have three egg laying stalls all their own.
I felt like I was taking their freedom away, reluctant to put them back in a cage, even though I’ve long observed that A: Silkies only use a very small area, quite unlike the big hens B: They’re much safer confined, and C: Confinement for no more hunger or harassment is a good trade for them. They like to just hang out in a peaceful little pile.Later I added a sun shade.
But will they find their way back in at night? It’s not looking good.They all did! All of them, even the rooster I missed in the the night move and had to pop over the fence in the morning. Wow, what good chickens. The Colonel is such an amazing rooster. He waits until all the hens are in before he retires. Helping them if they need some demonstration. The other roosters are on their own though, even if they are youngsters.An egg! They love it. They love it:)
Another guinea down. This morning she was sitting in the greenhouse like she wasn’t ready to leave yet, and I looked at her twice, and had a feeling, from her posture. When she let me pick her up I knew it was bad. I tucked her in this corner, gave her food and water, which I’m sure she didn’t touch, and the other two stayed by her, doting. She just seemed to be breathing a bit hard. An hour later, gone. Such a pretty bird. The feathers around her neck are lilac coloured. If this is some weird bird illness going through the “flock” (2 of 4 in a week), then I’m going to be out of guineas just like that. That would be so strange, they spend all day out in the wild buffet, how could they be healthier? All hope rides on the remaining hen. In the chickery, the yellow chick is part duckling. She spends all her free time on Mom. Every couple minutes she’s jumping up there. Usually a chick barely stays up on Mom long enough to get a picture. Mom shrugs her off by bringing her head down low and tipping up her wings, so the chick falls off. It’s funny, obviously a deliberate dump off. That’s enough. It’s time for a grass recognition lesson.They are all bouncing around, and they have little wingtip feathers already, but I caught them back in the box hiding from the sun.Thinking about jumping up again. Very attentive students. Back up! It’s time for a little doze.It’s out of focus, but it’s just too cute!
I took Apples on a field day. I needed to spend some time broadforking the greenhouse, and thought she could do with some enrichment. Even the world’s meekest chicken needs a little time out of the box.
I carried her out and set her down in the middle of the greenhouse, and turned around to shut the big doors because it was windy. I look back – no chicken! I go to the other end to shut those doors, all the while looking for her. I can’t see her anywhere. I get back inside and start looking behind the things still piled around. Nothing. I start panicking a bit – I turned around for two seconds!
Then I found her. It seems she’s a little bit agoraphobic.
I sat with her on my lap for a bit, savouring being able to really hug a chicken (they mostly do not prefer it), then cuddled her next to me on the hay bale, then got up and went to work, and she started to poke around.
She didn’t go far. She found a little corner behind the hay bale to scritch around, looking out at me, or through the plastic at the action outside.
She rapidly garnered herself a suitor.Hey baby. I ain’t never seen feathered feet like that!
He bobbed and strutted back and forth, thoroughly frustrated. She settled down to wait for her ride back to her box, where she ate like she’d just done a workout. I hope she’s a little more exploratory tomorrow.
The five outcast roosters are spending their days gazing through the plastic wall, or fence, at all the fun the others are having, and the hens prancing around.Their coop is in the edge of the woods, but they have gravitated, in a group, to the side of the greenhouse. They haven’t investigated too far. Not far enough to find the end of the fence. It’s only one section now, to deter them from getting at the rest of the flock (it doesn’t take much). There are enough roos in the mix, and I don’t want any of these guys’ genes. They’re just dumb, aggressive galoots; they spend all day scrapping with each other. Not even pure Silkies. Maybe not their fault they aren’t good for anything, but still. What do I do with them?!
I can’t even caption them. All I get is Duhhhhh. Hen. HEN. Fight! Duhhhh.
On the inside a couple of the new roos have shown that they have a brain, and some gumption, and have essentially self-selected for inclusion in the main flock (for now, until I make some arranged marriages). Oddly, it’s only the black roosters that have distinguished themselves. In my flock, the white roosters are the clever, trustworthy ones (the Colonel is a hero among roosters).
Back on track. I survived my alarming and exhausting 5 days of wretchedness.It started out a big rain day. Only Cleopatra is out there wading for worms. The barred rocks say Nah, too wet for us.
The first broody hen of the year has her own box, finally. She’s been determinedly trying to warm eggs in the prime nest box of the big coop for a week, but I haven’t been able to manage getting her her own box. That means that the big hens have been laying eggs right on top of her some of the time. Some of the others have clearly been put off by the little witch always in their box and started piling eggs in another corner. She settled in to the box well, considering the risky daytime move. Often hens will flip out at the move, certain that their eggs are really where they last left them. She’s inside the tomato safe in a private box, and I’ll build her a kennel asap. This will be much more peaceful now.
Inside, I potted up a pile of various melons, cukes, and peppers, and I had a little helper.I expected her interest; she’s come trotting out of her zone for potting up occasions before. She likes picking around at the dirt, or maybe just something different. Just like a cat. Whatcha doin’?
We’d peacefully “worked together” like this for about an hour, and she’d perched up on the edge of the box for a better view, when suddenly:
I’d almost met my goals of the day, so it was fine. I finished up around her, and there was a little potting soil left.
All in all, we made a right glorious mess, but all the little starts are very happy in larger homes. My start factory has turned the corner now, from still having seeds to begin or divide, to the starts heading out the door. Cell blocks are being retired. We’ve passed peak start, in other words.
I’m very pleased this year with my experiments in fabric potting bags, from China, and also homemade, but that’s another post. All cleaned up. I left her in the tub (she seemed happy).Two hours later.
I was watching for signs that she was hungry, needed a hand out? But no, wriggle wriggle. At three hours she started looking over the edge and I lifted her out. She’s going to have some sleep tonight. What a big day.
She’s all grown up now. Any day she’s going to lay an egg.
I got sick of the Silkies staying in the greenhouse all day. The door’s been open for ages, the other birds are going out the opposite door into the world at large, so the Silkies have a yard all to themselves with no big chickens in it, but do they ever go out the door? No. I expected more from the Colonel.So I herded them all out the door. Screaming protests, flying over me. Then once they were outside – Oh, this is ok. Peck, peck.A half hour later they were all back inside. So I herded them out again. Go play outside! Apparently they need acclimation training.